Live Review: Tom McRae at Bristol O2 Academy – Tuesday 16th March 2010

By on Wednesday, 17th March 2010 at 12:01 am

Singer-Songwriters are everywhere. Everyone has, at somepoint in their life dreamt of being able to pick up a guitar, strum away and pull that girl or guy with an amazing song, or leading thousands of people in a singalong. Very few actually manage to make a career out of it. Even fewer are actually good, all round musicians and entertainers. Tom McRae is one of this rare and dying species, and I caught him last night at Bristol’s O2 Academy.

I’ve caught Tom a few times before, having been enchanted by him on the Hotel Cafe tour around the UK, where he was funny, entertaining and above all had some gut-wrenching songs that I so loved. We’re not talking the usual tales of failed relationships, oh no, we’re talking death, decay and pain of the nth degree. Yet somehow you leave a Tom McRae show feeling optimistic, positive even, despite the mass sing alongs of “It’s the end of the world…” (in old favourite ‘End Of The World News (Dose Me Up)’).

With his dry sense of humour, Tom observed that his (surprisingly excellent) cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella (which he referred to as his “Tombrella”) got bigger cheers than any of his other songs so far, asking the audience to send in ideas for other merchandise (so far they’ve had a McRadio (that only plays bad news), McRaybans (that always give the darker side of life) and the Tombrella (that lets you have the shade even on the sunniest day)).

Acknowledging fully that commercial success has largely eluded him, he takes pimping his merchandise to a whole new level, past shameful and back around to highly amusing, flogging tea towels, posters and CDs like there’s no tomorrow. If Tom ever gives up the music biz there is most likely a job going for him as a comedian – his tales about touring around the UK (“I only remember doing Leeds Girls Grammar School on that tour…”) and comparing releasing singles to being like raising Orang-utans (don’t ask, you probably had to be there to understand) are both hilarious and a great respite from the melancholy of his tracks..

Opening the set with some songs of his new album, The Alphabet of Hurricanes, I will admit I was concerned that, at 40, he’d gone all “rock” on us in a mid life crisis, however you quickly realise that lyrical content is still the same sort of stuff. I personally far prefer his earlier three albums, however the songs from his latest two (“King of Cards” and “Alphabet of Hurricanes”) are by no stretch “go to the bar” / “talk to a mate” / “go to the loo” material – they’re just as valid set additions. I’m a fan of the sadder tales, the melancholy and the woe, but that might just be due to other issues in my life at the moment. Songs like ‘Walking to Hawaii’, ‘Hidden Camera Show’, ‘My Vampire Heart’ and ‘End Of The World News (Dose Me Up)’ never get old, songs that I’ve grown up with and will always treasure.

Opening up was Texan Brian Wright who also plays guitar supporting Tom, and his set was a strong set of guitar tales, which would be ace if only we had a camp fire to sit around and a few less idiots talking through the whole set.

Tom McRae’s tour finishes tonight at London’s Scala, which is sold out, before Tom hits Europe for a few weeks of shows. If you get a chance, make sure you catch the talented Essex troubadour somewhere in the future – trust me, it’ll be one of the best shows of your life, and if it’s not I’ll pay for your ticket. Can’t say fairer than that, eh?

Read our interview with Tom McRae here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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